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America is not a Christian nation.
Really. It's not.
I know a lot of people tell us that it is, especially since the 2004 election.
But it isn't.
People have been saying it a whole lot recently, what with the whole Terri Schiavo incident and that lady who apparently used "A Purpose Driven Life" to convince her captor to turn himself in.
People could also say that peanut butter would taste good on a pork chop - they'd still be wrong. America is not a Christian nation.
Granted, there are a lot of people living in America who are Christians - the vast majority in fact. Which can certainly make it seem like this is a Christian nation. But even if every single US citizen was an avowed and practicing Christian, this would still not be a Christian nation.
This nation was founded as specifically non-religious. The founders of the country all came from places that did have national religions, which was bad news if you didn't happen to share that particular faith. Most of them came here expressly to be able to practice whatever religion they wanted, free from persecution. So, when our enlightened founding fathers were debating how to create this new country, they wisely decided to allow for full religious freedom, and no nationally endorsed religion. In fact, it was put in our very Constitution that the government is forbidden from establishing a religion.
Which means America is not a Christian nation.
It's an important point to remember, especially now when so many powerful political leaders are actively religious and actively make use of religious language when speaking to the public. While our current leaders can make all the religious overtures they want, and some of our Supreme Court justices can say that our laws derived from God if they want, but they do not have enough power to change the fundamental fact that there is no national religion in America. Despite their wishes, America can never be a Christian nation.
It's also important to note that the vast majority of Americans are very happy that there is no national religion. Sure, the people that do want this to be a Christian nation have been making a lot of noise lately, but they are still in the minority. This was reaffirmed in recent polls, when around 70% of Americans disapproved of Congress and the White House getting involved with the Schiavo case. People may have been unsure about all of the moral and religious issues surrounding that tragedy, but there was little doubt amongst the vast majority that this was not an issue to be decided by the American government.
For those of us that cherish this aspect of American life and believe that religion is meant to be personal and everyone's faith is accepted and tolerated and left alone to be practiced in peace, these are strange and frustrating times. It seems like the minority of people, the ones that would prefer to live under religious law, the ones so convinced of the certitude of their own faith that they wish have their beliefs and their morals forced upon all, are in control of the levers of power. They get a lot of attention from those at the top, and their pet issues are getting a lot of mass media attention.
But we must take heart, because the country was built to withstand these types of challenges. And the majority of the people who live here, the ones that you don't see on TV protesting and shouting and waving placards, don't actually agree with the fanatics and the extremists. Most Americans are moderate and tolerant at heart.
It is this very tolerance that causes the majority of the public to recoil when the zealots overreach and try to impose too much of their belief system on everyone. It is this very innate sense of moderation that inevitably balances things out when one side seems to be tipping things too far in their direction. It is the very heart and soul of the American to stick to the principles the country was founded on, and to never let anyone fundamentally alter it.
America never has been a Christian nation. Regardless of the latest efforts of a devoted yet misguided few, America will never be a Christian nation. Our Constitution prevents it, and the overwhelming majority of people do not want it. America was, is, and will continue to be a nation of people free to worship how they choose, free to believe what they want, and free from a government imposing its ideas about religion upon them.
When it comes to a national religion, America truly is the land of the free. Thank God for that.
Dan Filowitz is Toronto-born, New-Jersey-raised, Indiana-University-educated, and Chicago-residing. In addition to his Lost At Sea contributions, Dan is a senior staff writer for political humor site TalkStation.com and the president of ChicagoImprovAnarchy (The CIA) a Chicago-based improv theatre company. We are not mentioning the 9-5 corporate job. Apparently, Dan does not sleep much. Dan Filowitz is the perfect dinner party guest - fun, witty, intelligent, with wide-ranging interests, ecclectic tastes and a winning smile. Just make sure you have coffee available.
See other articles by Dan Filowitz.
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